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The Permanent Campaign

June 22nd, 2012 - 6:27 pm

Did you ever wonder why President Obama wants your birthday, wedding or anniversary money? He does. ABC News reports describes the newest fundraising vehicle: an event register, just like the Bed, Bath and Beyond listing that lets you donate money to him instead of your wife or bride on that special day.”You’ve dreamed of this day. Your life partner is there, your family and friends have gathered from far and wide, and all that’s left to do before you share that first married kiss is …” give to the Obama campaign.

Yes, give to the Obama campaign.

The Obama campaign, which has made political fundraising into an art form, rolled out yet another option on Friday for Americans who want to help give Barack Obama another four years in the White House: the Obama event registry.

“Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?” the campaign asks on its official Web site. “Let your friends know how important this election is to you—register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift.

The extent to which the President has to pander to donors was illustrated by the fete he gave to gay supporters at the White House. “While at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the activists danced to the sounds of a Marine Corps band, dined on crab crabs and hand-delivered letters from citizens back home, but some of them also took the time to ‘flip the bird’ at the late president’s likeness, the Weekly Standard Reported. Matthew Hart, the national director of public engagement at Solutions for Progress – an organization that provides assistance to poor families – and photographer Zoe Strauss were caught on camera making the obscene gesture.”

Flip One for the Gipper

That may seem a little crude, but in defense of the President, what choice does he have? He needs the money, the donations provided by the bird flippers above are vitally needed to make ends meet.  The Obama campaign expenses are so prodigious that it actually puts out more than it takes in.  Had it not been for the fact that the Marine Corps band is paid for by the taxpayer, allowing him to save on expenses, the fete might have been operating at yet another loss.

Fighting to keep his job, President Obama spent more money than he raised in May, and ended the month with $109.7 million in cash reserves — a more than 6-to-1 advantage over his Republican rival Mitt Romney, federal reports filed Wednesday show.

Obama, who has been able to accumulate cash as Romney fended off primary challengers, spent three times more in May than he did in April, reflecting new investments in staff — a total of 703 campaign workers in May, up from 631 a month earlier — and the barrage of television commercials in battleground states that have touted his record and slammed presumptive GOP nominee Romney’s business career.

The need for money is so great the President must actually run the risk posed by dinner forks at public events.  Before President Obama addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the diners were asked to surrender their forks.

Regalado hurried the diners to finish up their salads and pre-cut chicken breasts, saying that the Secret Service required that there be no knives at the tables and that the forks be rounded up before Obama entered the room.

“As you know, we’re having another speaker and there is some Secret Service involved. So there’s a reason why there’s no knives at your table and the forks will be collected. … And I’m not joking,” Regalado told the audience in a ballroom at Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World. “So, like the good Hispanic mother I’m here to tell you to please, eat your lunch.”

There is no peril, hardship or menace that the President won’t face to get at that campaign buck. Getting re-elected is really hard work, especially when you do nothing else. The Economist, writing in April, described just how massive the re-election effort was. Describing his headquarters, the magazine wrote “it would  look like the trading floor of a bank, were it not for the casual clothes and dorm-room atmosphere. The cavernous open-plan headquarters of Barack Obama’s re-election campaign houses over 300 workers seated in serried rows, jabbering into phones and tapping purposefully at computer keyboards.”

One corner of this football field of desks is given over to “regional pods”, which oversee the campaign in different parts of the country. Nearby sit teams that focus on particular slices of the electorate, including the young, the old, women, religious groups, racial minorities and gay voters. The IT department occupies a whole bank of desks, as does the one charged with drumming up support via Facebook, Twitter and the like. There is a training division, a scheduling unit, a travel desk and an in-house printing shop. There are media monitors, spokesmen, speechwriters, video editors and graphic designers, not to mention fund-raising co-ordinators, accountants, lawyers and a knot of workers devoted solely to typing up the various reports and disclosures required by the Federal Election Commission. Plenty of empty desk-space remains, in anticipation of further hiring before November.

Yet this hive of electioneering is only the most visible manifestation of a campaign that has been gathering steam for over a year now, as a spokesman explains. Obama 2012 has over 100 offices spread across nearly every state … Whereas Mr Romney has spent $14m on television and radio advertising, Mr Obama has devoted only $3m to that. Instead, he has spent $12m on online advertising, to Mr Romney’s $1m, and $15m on staff, to Mr Romney’s $5m. Mr Romney’s headquarters, in a drab low-rise building in Boston, is a fraction the size of Mr Obama’s. In many states, Mr Romney has no formal presence, having closed his offices after the local primary, or never having opened any in the first place.

This huge staff means that candidate Obama’s fixed costs are enormous.  Literally thousands of activists depend on his herculean fundraising efforts for their paychecks. He has got an army working for him. The Hollywood Reporter says celebrities are worried that President Obama is overworking himself.

“We don’t like what he’s doing, but we understand it,” says one Hollywood fund-raising insider. “He has to raise the money. It’s a bad situation.” …

And the Obama campaign is far from done: An online contest is underway that allows donor-participants to name the celebrity they’d like to join for dinner with the president, and on June 26, Obama will appear onstage in Miami at a benefit concert with singer Marc Anthony. Another online contest offers backstage passes to that event (with an entry form in English and Spanish, signaling how important Latinos will be to winning Florida).

The Latino money will be welcome. The Economist notes that even merchandising has not been overlooked. “To keep flightier visitors interested, the campaign uses gimmicky branded goods—from Obama 2012 nail polish to dog bowls—and competitions among donors to have a meal with Mr and Mrs Obama. ” As long as they don’t bring the forks.

Checks in the City


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